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Supported by the International Council on Clean Transportation’s (ICCT) experience and freight assessment methodologies, the China Automotive Technology and Research Center Beijing Operations (CATARC Beijing) has developed in-depth research on developing trends in Chinese freight market, freight vehicle characteristics, and penetration of fuel-efficiency technologies. The nine key findings of this assessment are:
1. Freight transported by road accounts for 80% of the total freight market. Most carriers in the road freight market are private individual operators.
2. With the development of high-speed railways, the market share of rail freight will increase rapidly, particularly for coal and large goods.
3. Over-load and over-limit operations are quite common in the Chinese road freight industry. Currently, enforcement is the main method used to address overload and over-limit operation in China. Since the 2016 implementation of “9.21” regulations, long-haul freight vehicles now generally operate at standard-load but over-limiting remains a problem. However, over-loading is still very common among urban delivery vehicles.
4. Straight trucks represent the most common body type used for road freight in China, however, the population of tractor-trailers is increasing rapidly.
5. The market shares of alternative fuel and pure electric heavy-duty trucks are increasing rapidly, particularly in the urban delivery market. Also, the market penetration of pure electric vehicles is increasing sharply due to government policies.
6. The driving speed of freight vehicles in China is relatively low due to traffic congestion. The average speed of mainline freight vehicles is about 60km/h and the speed of urban delivery vehicles averages 30–40km/h.
7. The selection of fuel-saving technologies depend primarily on vehicle size. Most vehicles under 4.5 tonnes employ electric driving systems due to government policy. For most vehicles greater than 12 tonnes, fuel-saving technologies include alternative fuels, light-weighting, and those that reduce aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance.
8. Although fuel consumption is a factor considered by freight carriers and individual users, it is not the most important criteria in truck purchase decisions.
9. Driver training programs that promote fuel savings require low investment from operators and offer distinct fuel-saving benefits. However, both vehicle fleets and management agencies fail to take advantage of this option.
Road transport is expected to remain the primary mode of transportation in China for the foreseeable future. Online logistics platforms have the potential to greatly increase freight efficiency. Encouraging rail freight, and the large-scale adoption of electric trucks in urban delivery systems could also greatly reduce energy consumption and mitigate the environmental impacts of the sector.
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